Remember, Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits that are not offered in Original Medicare coverage. Beneficiaries who need prescription drug coverage may prefer the convenience of having all of their Medicare coverage included under a single plan, instead of enrolling in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for Medicare Part D coverage. However, every person’s situation is different, so it’s a good idea to review your specific health needs, and compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area to find a plan option that best suits your needs.
There are other proposals for savings on prescription drugs that do not require such fundamental changes to Medicare Part D's payment and coverage policies. Manufacturers who supply drugs to Medicaid are required to offer a 15 percent rebate on the average manufacturer's price. Low-income elderly individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid receive drug coverage through Medicare Part D, and no reimbursement is paid for the drugs the government purchases for them. Reinstating that rebate would yield savings of $112 billion, according to a recent CBO estimate. Some have questioned the ability of the federal government to achieve greater savings than the largest PDPs, since some of the larger plans have coverage pools comparable to Medicare's, though the evidence from the VHA is promising. Some also worry that controlling the prices of prescription drugs would reduce incentives for manufacturers to invest in R&D, though the same could be said of anything that would reduce costs. However the comparisons with the VHA point out that the VA only covers about half the drugs as Part D.
Medicare also has an important role driving changes in the entire health care system. Because Medicare pays for a huge share of health care in every region of the country, it has a great deal of power to set delivery and payment policies. For example, Medicare promoted the adaptation of prospective payments based on DRG's, which prevents unscrupulous providers from setting their own exorbitant prices. Meanwhile, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has given Medicare the mandate to promote cost-containment throughout the health care system, for example, by promoting the creation of accountable care organizations or by replacing fee-for-service payments with bundled payments.
There is some controversy over who exactly should take responsibility for coordinating the care of the dual eligibles. There have been some proposals to transfer dual eligibles into existing Medicaid managed care plans, which are controlled by individual states. But many states facing severe budget shortfalls might have some incentive to stint on necessary care or otherwise shift costs to enrollees and their families to capture some Medicaid savings. Medicare has more experience managing the care of older adults, and is already expanding coordinated care programs under the ACA, though there are some questions about private Medicare plans' capacity to manage care and achieve meaningful cost savings.
The 2003 payment formulas succeeded in increasing the percentage of rural and inner city poor that could take advantage of the OOP limit and lower co-pays and deductibles—as well as the coordinated medical care—associated with Part C plans. In practice however, one set of Medicare beneficiaries received more benefits than others. The MedPAC Congressional advisory group found in one year the comparative difference for "like beneficiaries" was as high as 14% and have tended to average about 2% higher. The word "like" in the previous sentence is key. MedPAC does not include all beneficiaries in its comparisons and MedPAC will not define what it means by "like" but it apparently includes people who are only on Part A, which severely skews its percentage comparisons—see January 2017 MedPAC meeting presentations. The differences caused by the 2003-law payment formulas were almost completely eliminated by PPACA and have been almost totally phased out according to the 2018 MedPAC annual report, March 2018. One remaining special-payment-formula program—designed primarily for unions wishing to sponsor a Part C plan—is being phased out beginning in 2017. In 2013 and since, on average a Part C beneficiary cost the Medicare Trust Funds 2%-5% less than a beneficiary on traditional fee for service Medicare, completely reversing the situation in 2006-2009 right after implementation of the 2003 law and restoring the capitated fee vs fee for service funding balance to its original intended parity level.